my eyes are brown

April 3rd, 2011

My mother had brown eyes. My father had blue eyes. My eyes are brown. I hope you appreciate this fact, because it is a way to appreciate your life.

I’m always honored when someone contacts me through this site, or any other of our so-called social media, and asks how to take up the study of Zen Buddhism with me. I also realize that they will be slightly dismayed by my response, since we can seem to get so far these days by going nowhere at all, just flicking our fingers and thumbs across a pad.

I happen to belong to a Zen lineage that spans 81 generations of ancestors each of whom transmitted the teaching one-on-one, in person, to his or her successors. What kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t believe in the teaching I’ve been shown or the lineage to which I belong?

There are many who don’t experience the truth as I do, and so there are those who offer long-distance study. That is fine, up to a point. But the point of departure is the fundamental point of the practice: to penetrate the illusion of duality – separation – and experience the one mind. To do that, you have to meet the teacher eye-to-eye. When the student comes together with the teacher, as conditions are right, wisdom arises by itself: the way grass grows with rain and flowers bloom to face the sun. You may have already experienced what I’m talking about, although none of us can quite express it in words.

It would be convenient to make use of all our fancy communication devices, but they wouldn’t supplant the meeting of mind through which my lineage comes alive. I can no more change that vital truth than I can change my mother’s genetic code to give me the blue eyes and blonde hair I’ve always thought would suit me better!

Please don’t let a distorted view of distance or possibility dissuade you. When I began my practice, I lived three states away from my teacher, Maezumi Roshi, and came to sit with him only when I could. I tell people I came once. And then I came one more time. And then one more. Each time singular and unique as conditions were right. There is no minimum, or maximum, requirement. The dharma will lead you – is already leading you – and you need only trust it. You need only open your eyes, and you will see the sun.

Love Beyond Limits workshop Sat., April 30 in Washington, DC

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat Sun., June 12 in LA

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  1. And I went today. To a place in my own town. To see her blue eyes. So strong did she seem. So armored in her faith. But I sat right next to her and saw the worn places on her pants where her hands had rested, just above her knees, for so many hours. And I think the holes made her seem even stronger.

    I cannot come to you, but you told me to go to them. And I did today. And there she was. And it was good. Thank you.

    Comment by Nancy — April 3, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  2. Nancy – perfect.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 3, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  3. Karen — I received my book from you. Thank you!

    Would you consider becoming my formal teacher? I’ve been wanting to ask for a couple of years. Knowing that you started a few states away from yours at the beginning makes me wonder if it’s viable. We live much closer together. If a private conversation would be a better place for this discussion, just let me know.


    Comment by Kathryn — April 3, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  4. I came once. Then again. Wish I could look into your brown eyes with my green eyes today.

    Comment by Jena — April 3, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Kathryn –
    We can take that up when we practice together.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 3, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  6. I feel like something just opened up with these words. So you see, distance can be powerful. It has been on a few occasions for me. So not only do we take it one visit at a time, but perhaps it’s okay to take it one idea and gathering at time, however that gathering may be.

    Comment by Christine @ Coffees and Commutes — April 4, 2011 @ 3:15 am

  7. that is what i’m having a hard time with lately. no place, no teacher. the few places i have ventured into here have felt wrong, unwelcome, out of place, like i didn’t belong and why am i interrupting them shouldn’t i be at a zumba class instead. struggling with it. but still meditating and reading every day. just need to find…me. or not.

    Comment by denise — April 4, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  8. Nothing compares to sitting face to face.

    Comment by Swirly — April 5, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  9. Some day, when I am allowed to travel all these overseas miles again, I will come and will sit and will look you in the eyes. I am so sure of that.

    Comment by Roos — April 6, 2011 @ 11:00 am

  10. I very much enjoy your blog Karen. I so appreciate your writing and your insights………

    Comment by Kiersten — April 13, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

  11. Ahhh…the answer i was looking for. I may see you again and you will continue to be my teacher… AND i can also continue in my search for a teacher …it is all good!

    Much love,

    Comment by Kirsten — December 26, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

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